Marcus Thompson, a columnist for the Bay Area News Group wrote a piece recently in which he stated that the Oakland Raiders should be happy if they can finish the 2014 season with an 8-8 record. Naturally, many long winded Twitter conversations ensued about what reasonable expectations for the Raiders should be in 2014.
Naturally, there were those who were on both sides of the argument. Some believed the Raiders had put together a much better team than that and expect double digit win numbers. On the other side, there are those who fell in line with the belief that the free agent signings will not help the team enough and are expecting another four win season.
There was yet another, albeit much smaller group, who fell right in line with Thompson’s thinking. And this is the group that I find myself to be in as well. But are those who find themselves at the extreme ends of the spectrum totally out of whack with their thinking? Probably not. The fact of the matter is, everything with regards to how this team will do in 2014 is based on pure speculation.
Matt Schaub, LaMarr Woodley, Carlos Rodgers, Maurice Jones-Drew, Donald Penn and Justin Tuck are all veterans who were brought in by the Raiders to be starters at key positions. All of these guys have played at a very high level during their careers and all of them have been tagged with the knock of being too old and past their prime. Fair or not, it is a legitimate to wonder just how much these guys have left in the tank. Obviously the answer will be different for each one, but what’s more important is that no one has any legitimate clue as to what those answers will be.
Each one of these guys could just as easily have a bounce back year as they could fall flat on their faces. If general manager Reggie McKenzie hits the jack pot and all of these guys come back and play well with a chip on their shoulder, this could be a team that ends up competing for a playoff spot. On the other side of the coin, if all of these guys prove the critics right and wind up having nothing left in the tank, a third consecutive 4-12 season is not out of the question by any means.
After all, two of the most pivotal parts of a successful NFL team are the pass rush and the quarterback. In the group of people who represent massive question marks are both a new quarterback with Pro Bowl potential and pass rushers who were once some of the most feared in the game.
The Raiders clearly also added a significant amount of talent to the team in the 2014 NFL Draft but rarely is one draft enough to completely rebuild a team like the Raiders are attempting to do. The guys drafted, especially first round pick Khalil Mack, will have an impact on this team, but how well the team does will rely much more on the free agent class signed by McKenzie. Most projections have at least nine new starters on the Raiders coming from the free agent class.
So the moral of the story is, no one is crazy for their expectations heading into the 2014 season. Until the Raiders start playing games, no one will have any legitimate way of knowing just how good, or bad this team could be.